The new fireplace is underway... On Monday a truck pulled up with the thin veneer river rock I'd ordered from Portland, Oregon. It was a week late, but the product was beautiful. Yesterday the mason who's building my fireplace started the work.
The first step was to clean the incredibly dusty pieces of rock. They were dusty from the sawing operation, which uses saw blades with very fine pieces of diamond in them. The “rock dust” that results is incredibly fine – it makes talcum powder feel coarse. This dust had penetrated every tiny little nook and cranny in the surface of the rock. The masons first washed all the rocks with a 3,200 PSI pressure washer. Then they scrubbed them with dilute acid, and pressure washed them one more time. The result was almost miraculously different than what they started with (see first photo below).
Then they brought all the stone inside and laid it out on our living room floor (see second photo below). This is so they have a “palette” of stone to choose from as they build the fireplace.
Then they tackled the wall. The big job here was to clean off the remnants of the three separate iterations of fireplace that were here before. It started off in 1992 as a brick fireplace, then became a manufactured stone facade fireplace, and then a slate facade fireplace. We're replacing the slate version with this river rock.